Valentine’s Day, Weddings, Leap Year – What Do They Have in Common?
Answer: They’re all in my new book release, A Wedding in Red Creek. Jackson and Rori are back from The Sons of Dusty Walker Series, and they’ve got some work to do on their relationship before they walk down the aisle.
Excerpt: Rori sat at the work table in the back of her store. Staring out the windows facing Main Street, she watched the sun as it slid closer to the horizon. Four o’clock already and Jackson hadn’t come to talk to her, hadn’t even sent her a text about the rodeo idea.
The rows of tables between her and the windows facing Main Street stood filled with a variety of computer systems ranging from a laptop and printer for home use, to a server and work stations for a mid-sized business. A few people had wandered in this afternoon, but they carried their tablets or phones, looking for help with software issues.
She enjoyed helping them solve the problems, answering their questions, and showing them a few tricks to keep their operating systems working at optimal performance. It was almost like she was teaching them, and for some reason, teaching felt like a next-step in her career. It was surely something she’d wanted to do for a long time. Not full-time, of course. Just some short-term work, maybe through her alma mater in Kansas City.
Rori re-opened the newsletter she’d received that morning from the university and scrolled to the paragraph that had gotten her thinking about teaching. They were planning a summer session of classes for college-bound high school students. Only six weeks, and just four days a week. She could commute easily between KC and Red Creek.
With a snort, she deleted the email. When would she have time to teach? She ran two Cyber Wise locations, one here in Red Creek, and one in Kansas City, staffed by her college friend Kiwi, now known as Morgan since he’d given up his life as a hacker to go legit.
She sat back in her chair, looking around her. With the money she was bringing in, she could easily afford to hire someone to manage this location, too. That would give her free time to do something she’d always wanted to do.
Rori found the email in the trash folder and forwarded it to her mother with a quick question about the program. Mina taught at one of the high schools in KC, but worked closely with the university, arranging college-level classes for the students planning to attend post-secondary schools. Her mom would know more about the curriculum.
There was no harm in asking, was there? If anything her mother said interested Rori, she’d talk with Jackson about it. She wouldn’t bring it up now, with the house construction nearly finished, a wedding in just weeks, and his new rodeo arena probably taking up whatever room was left in his brain right now.
The buzzer sounded, alerting her to the front door opening, and she jumped, anxious energy making her heart skitter. Jackson walked in.
She closed her email software, a little ping of guilt hitting her.
Jackson grinned like a man walking into a bar full of horny women as he sauntered over to her, his long legged walk all loose and sexy.
The long-sleeved blue flannel shirt he’d worn had been a Christmas gift from her mom and dad, and he wore it often, which pleased Rori very, very much. He’d been letting his hair grow and the chestnut curls looked so damn attractive on him, she almost wanted to talk him into keeping it long and shaggy-hot for the wedding.
He reached her and bent close for a quick kiss. His inky blue eyes turned a little darker. “Busy? It’s almost closing time. Wanna lock up early and go upstairs?” He kissed her jaw, then nibbled on her earlobe.
A flush of warmth spread through her body, making her eyelids droop with need. No. Her eyes popped open wide. She needed to talk to him about the rodeo arena first. Pulling away gently, she smiled at him. “Sit and talk a minute first.” Rori gestured to the chair next to her.
His brow rose and he looked into her eyes for a second as if judging her mood. “Okay. Whatever you want, darlin’.”
Whenever he used that endearment for her, she nearly melted into a juicy puddle of desire. Today, she had to fight back the urge. They needed to talk.
He pulled the chair closer and sat, his knee pressed against her thigh. “Everything okay?” His lips curved into a slight frown.
“I heard about the rodeo arena idea.” There, that didn’t sound accusatory. What she’d wanted to say was, Why did I have to hear about it from Zoe? Why didn’t you tell me yourself?
“Yeah.” He grinned. “What do you think?”
“Uh…” He wasn’t the least bit cowed by the circumstances? “Zoe told me—told all three of us at lunch.”
“I figured she would. Dylan said he texted her.” His brows dropped. “Oh damn, I should have told you myself, right?” He tipped his head as if he wasn’t too sure about that.
“It would have been nice. How long have you been keeping…planning this?”
He took her hand and kissed her knuckles. “Just thought of it last night, Rori. Honestly.” Looking into her eyes, he gave her that sorry puppy-dog look he was so good at. “You were sound asleep when I got up this morning, and I didn’t want to wake you, so I just decided to run it by the brothers.”
With a deep breath, she let go of her uncertainties. He wouldn’t intentionally keep secrets from her. She knew this, trusted him, loved him more than anything. She’d let the whole sharing thing drop. Especially since she’d just chosen to explore a teaching opportunity in KC without mentioning it to him. “How did they react?”
His face lit with his smile. “They like it. A lot. It’ll be a good thing for the whole town. It can be used for more than rodeo. We can have concerts, stock shows.” He shrugged. “I haven’t even thought of all the functions.” He leaned a little closer. “And they suggested we make you the rodeo queen.”
That made her laugh and roll her eyes at the same time. “I will pick out my tiara next time I’m in KC.”
With a kiss, he smoothed her hair. “Perfect, I can just see you…” He stared off, his eyes opened wide for a few seconds, then he took a fast inhale and gestured to the monitor in front of her. “Can you pull up a town map on that thing? I’ll show you what I’m thinking.”
How could she resist that cowboy grin and boyish enthusiasm? She found an aerial map and Jackson went over his ideas. She made some suggestions, and he labeled each of them genius. She printed out the map and a few other pieces of information. Jackson was a paper-kind of guy, liking to have things in his hand rather than in some obscure electronic cloud.
It was after five when they finally turned the Closed sign on the front door and locked up, then carried the rodeo paperwork up the steps to their apartment.
Their little table held the two projects that consumed their life currently. On one side, the blueprints and magazines and paperwork for the nearly-completed house they were building on lakefront acreage on Osprey Lake sat piled a foot high. On the other side, wedding planning things were heaped up, overflowing onto two of the chair seats, as well.
Jackson looked at the mounds. “We’re gonna need a bigger table.”
Rori laughed and gestured to the coffee table in the little living room area. The table currently held a couple gaming controllers. “Use that for now. Pretty soon, we can get rid of the wedding stuff and pack away the house things for the big move.”
They were planning to move everything to the new house before the wedding, but not stay in the house until their wedding night. Rori watched him set his paperwork down neatly, then sit and stare again at the map.
Jackson was a traditional guy. He wanted their first night as a married couple to be their first night in their new home. She was okay with that, as long as they were cozied up together here every night. And sometimes during the day. And sometimes all day long on weekends. She giggled.
He glanced at her. “I know that look. What are you thinking, bad girl? A little pre-marital sex, perhaps?” Standing, he unbuttoned the top button of his shirt, his gaze locked with hers.
Rori’s belly clenched with a desire that seemed to grow stronger every day. She bit her lip and backed up a step in the direction of the bedroom. “No supper?”
He took a step forward. “We’ll call this our…appetizer.” He flicked his tongue out, his lids lowering.
A shiver raced through her, imagining that talented tongue on all the parts of her that would respond so well to being flicked. “And dessert?” She backed up another few feet as she grabbed the hem of her Cyber Wise T-shirt and tugged it off over her head.
“Ah, Rori, you’re my feast for the night.” He advanced on her quickly, reaching for her, lifting her so her body pressed along his, her feet dangling.
“Actually, skipping supper is probably a good idea, if I want to fit into my wedding dress.” She blinked a few times, realizing she’d probably broken the mood.
He just laughed. “You and your practical side.” He walked them into the bedroom and set her on the bed. Kneeling in front of her, he untied one of her high-tops. “But we will both have a sensible meal somewhere in between the courses of this sexual buffet.”
He tugged off her shoe and striped stocking, then sucked her middle toe into his mouth.
A burst of lust shook her and she flopped back onto the mattress. “Jackson.” It came out barely a whisper. “You’re going to spoil me.” She sighed as his tongue traced along the bottom of her foot.
“That’s my job, darlin’. My sworn duty as the future husband of Mrs. Rori Walker.” His mouth found the inside of her ankle, and who could have known that the tender skin right there would make her scream his name?
Book Blurb: With their wedding day fast approaching, Rori Hughes and Jackson Walker have much to do. Their red-hot courtship, swift and deep emotional bond, and Christmas engagement have proven the strength of their love for each other. But with real life commitments just days away, they find themselves battered by serious communication challenges.
While one of them contemplates their unachieved goals, the other struggles to ignore the call of adventure. The sudden uncertainty of a future spent settling into a routine threatens to drive a wedge between the couple. Can Rori and Jackson find what they’re looking for in Red Creek, or is the town nowhere near large enough to hold them and their dreams?